Note This is directed to release shooters, but coaches of release shooters should get the point as they should be release shooters themselves. Steve
If you shoot with fingers on the string, the tough nut to crack is deciding when to release the string (Now . . . no, . . . now, . . .). This is why clickers were so quickly adopted by recurve archers when they were first invented.
For Compound-Release archers (Are there any other kinds left?), the release of the bowstring is different, quite different, because a mechanical thingamabob exists between fingers and string.
My first release aid was mechanical (it was a Hot Shot) but prior to those were the various ledge and rope-spike release aids that were not mechanical. There are no such “non-mechanical” releases in use today because of the superiority of the mechanical triggers now available (mostly of the “double sear” type if that interests you).
What I am addressing in this post is the mindset needed to be a successful archer who uses a release aid.
I remember shooting a Flint Round (I miss the Flint Round, a wonderful competition) and on the final shot, my Hot Shot release failed to let go of the string. In exasperation I hammered the trigger several times (Whap, whap, whap!) and no luck. I borrowed the release aid of my mentor, who was shooting right next to me to get that last shot off. The feelings I had surrounding this event are very easily recalled. (Everyone on the shooting line was waiting for me to finish, for example.)
Release aids do fail to function, but this is a very, very rare occurrence. Much more often, a release failing to “go off” is due to the archer’s technique or the lack thereof. For elite Compound-Release archers this basically does not happen, but for us recreational archers, it does. This topic was brought up by a comment from one of my colleagues (slightly edited): “With other thumb trigger releases I know some shots just aren’t going to go off but with this new release, even if the shot takes longer I know it’s going to go off. That makes a big difference.” Yeah, baby! This is an oh, so important part of release shooting.
Part of the reason release shooters accumulate so many release aids (other than the general belief in magic, exhibited by all archers) is to find a release aid that combined with their mastery of the technique to use it, results in this level of dependability (IMHO, of course). Once you start having an internal debate (Me v. I) over whether the damned thing is going to go off, your shot is finished, done, kaput. A trustworthy release aid/technique combination is vitally important to the mindset needed to shoot well. (While waiting for the release to actuate, there should be no conscious thoughts about the release at all.)
In my first year of release shooting, I can remember the feeling of a shot carried on just a tad too long and the thoughts going through my head: Should I let down? Should I force through the shot? Will I run out of time if I do a let down? None of these kinds of thoughts are helpful. There is an optimum time frame through which all of your shots should occur and you can train yourself to do this, but a requirement for achieving this is that the release aid be compatible with your technique (and vice-versa).
Releases can be two-, three-, or four-finger models if handheld or even wriststrap releases. Release aids can be triggerless or have thumb, little finger, or ring finger triggers. Wriststrap releases can use the index or middle finger to set them off.
The only way to find out which of these types of release aid fit your archery is by trial and test. Do use a rope bow for your initial tries! I give a rope bow to each of my compound students (if they do not already have one) and encourage them to carry it in their quiver so they can ask other archers “Can I try your release?” without the danger of dry fires of wildly shot arrows.
Then it is a matter of try, try, and try again. The ideal release . . . for you . . . fits for hand/body and suits your personality. It will feel “right” once you have shot it for a while. And, like golfers with putters, there are golfers who use the same putter for 40 years and others who switch back and forth between a set of dozens of different models, adding to that set often. You need to find out who you are in this regard. Archery has always been a voyage of self-discovery.